THE MOST ICONIC DRESSES
In order of their appearance, here are my favourite ones:
1. JOHN SINGER, PORTRAIT OF MADAME X, 1884
When John Singer Sargent exhibited his portrait of “Madame X” at the Paris Salon he shocked “Le Tout Paris”. Crowds jeered and jabbed at it, while critics decried the indecency of the famous beauty’s dress. The scandal left Sargent humiliated, but he eventually sold Madame X to the Met in 1916, calling the portrait “The best thing he’d ever done”.
2. COCO CHANEL, The LITTLE BLACK DRESS , 1926
Fashion trends come and go, but the “ Little Black Dress” created by the legendary designer remains immortal with the passage of time. When Vogue published an image of Coco’s radically simple Little Black Dress , it predicted that the plain, straight line dress would be ‘The Frock that all the world will wear’ . Indeed!
3. JOSEPHINE BAKER’S BANANA SKIRT, 1927
At The Folies Bergère, hordes of Parisians flocked to see ” La Revue Nègre”, a musical about jazz culture. Wearing little more than a string of pearls and a skirt made of rubber bananas, Josephine Baker descended on stage from a palm tree, and began to dance. She became an overnight sensation, an her costume became an iconic symbol of the Jazz Age and the Roaring Twenties.
4. GINGER ROGERS, The OSTRICH FEATHER DRESS, 1935
In 1935 Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers made cinema history with their most successful film “Top Hat”. However, it wasn’t Astaire’s headgear that got people talking, it was Rogers’ ostrich feather dress she worn dancing “Check to Cheek”.
5. WALLIS, DUCHESS OF WINDSOR’S WEDDING DRESS, 1937
The bride wore Mainbocher, a floor length column dress with a hart shaped bodice. Its conservative silhouette exemplified the austere style favoured by the American divorcee, and lent a sobriety to the scandalous union. Within weeks copies of the dress appeared in department stores.
6. VIVIEN LEIGH “GONE WITH THE WIND” 1939
Left with no money, Scarlett O’Hara tried to impress Red Butter wearing a green dress made out of velvet curtains. She didn’t fool him.
7. CHRISTIAN DIOR, THE BAR SUIT, 1947
The celebrated outfit, triggered a fashion revolution with its hourglass line. Christian Dior provided women with the ammunition to assert their powers of seduction, and gave the gloomy post-war era a new joie de vivre. Carmel Snow, Harper’s Bazaar editor called Christian Dior first collection “The New Look”.
8. MARILYN MONROE, “GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES” 1953
Designed by William Travilla, the hot pink strapless gown worn by Marilyn as she sings “Diamonds Are Girl’s Best Friends” , is one of the most iconic dresses of cinema history . Madonna had a copy made for one of her video.
9. GRACE KELLY, “ TO CATCH A THIEF ” 1955
The white chiffon gown worn by the future Princess Grace of Monaco, was one of the most beautiful dress to ever hit the silver screen . Created by legendary costume designer Edith Head, it remains as beautiful today as it did at the time – the mark of truly great design.
10. MARILYN MONROE, “ The SUBWAY DRESS ” 1955
The legendary dress worn by Marilyn Monroe in “The Seven Year Itch” reached its iconic status long time ago. The star sex appeal made the dress one of the most recognisable piece of clothing.
It made Monroe immortal, but it may also have doomed her marriage. Joe Di Maggio stormed off the film set, and three weeks later they divorce. In 2011, Marilyn’s dress sold at auction for a record breaking 5.5 million dollars.
11. GRACE KELLY’S WEDDING DRESS, 1956
Created by Helen Rose, a costume designer at MGM Studios, for her marriage to Prince Rainier of Monaco, the dress launched a million replicas for decades to come.
12. ANITA EKBERG, “ LA DOLCE VITA” 1960
The movie was an international sensation. It features a scene about the star cavorting in Rome Trevi Fountain and has been called “One of the most iconic movie scenes”.
13. AUDREY HEPBURN, “BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S” 1961
You can’t get more iconic than the Hubert de Givenchy gown worn by Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. The simple black dress became a fashion icon immediately after the film’s release, and the star herself became the epitome of chic.
14. MARILYN MONROE, “ HAPPY BIRTHDAY MR PRESIDENT” 1962
Singing to John F Kennedy, in a full length evening sheath, Marilyn Monroe dazzled and scandalised America . Bob Mackie was just out of college when he designed the famous dress who became the model for all present transparent red carpet outfits.
It sold at auction in 1999 for over 1 million dollars. Then again in 2016, for a whooping 5 million. To this day, it holds the record for being the most expensive dress sold at auction. The latest Met Gala theme was “Gilded Glamour” Kim Kardashian certainly delivered when she wore the famous dress lent by the Believe-it-Or-Not Museum who owns it.
15. JACQUELINE KENNEDY’S PINK SUIT, 1963
The First Lady had worn the pink suit on several occasions before that fateful day in Dallas. The suit was thought to be an authorised copy of a Chanel suit. After John F Kennedy was shot, the First Lady could not be persuaded to remove her blood stain ensemble. She wore it on board Air Force One, as Lyndon Johnson was sworn in. The outfit has been preserved, with the stains intact, and held by the National Archives in Maryland.
16. ELIZABETH TAYLOR, “CLEOPATRA” 1963
Elizabeth Taylor wore an amazing golden gown which perfectly suited her role as the queen. It is said to be the most expensive gown made for the silver screen.
LEFT – LE SMOKING, YVES SAINT LAURENT, 1966. CENTRE – CATHERINE DENEUVE, “ BELLE DE JOUR” 1967. RIGHT – BROOKE SHIELDS, CALVIN KLEIN JEANS, 1980.
17. LE SMOKING, YVES SAINT LAURENT, 1966
Arguably the most famous classic tuxedo worn by women. When Yves Saint Laurent sent Le Smoking on to the catwalk for his 1966 Haute Couture show, women wearing pants was still considered radical on both sides of the Atlantic. New York socialite Nan Kempner was denied entry to the Manhattan’s chic “ La Cote Basque”. Kempner removed her pants and walked into the restaurant wearing only the smoking jacket. Et Voilà!
18. CATHERINE DENEUVE, “ BELLE DE JOUR” 1967
The little black and white dress created by Yves Sy Laurent symbolised the master-maid part played by the star.
19. BROOKE SHIELDS, CALVIN KLEIN JEANS, 1980
15 year old Brooke Shields appeared in print and TV ads for Calvin Klein jeans . Shot by Richard Alvedon, Brooke confide “You want to know what comes between me and my Calvin’s ? Nothing” She, certainly, helped the designer denim craze.
20. PRINCESS DIANA’S WEDDING DRESS, 1982
The huge silk Emanuel creation, with its 25 foot train, inspired a generation of brides It’s meringue style impact can still be seen today.
21. JEAN PAUL GAULTIER , MADONA CONIC BRA , 1990
22. CHER’S, OSCARD DRESS , 1986
Bob Mackie, Cher’s long time costume maker, created this outrageous outfit for the Oscars, at which the singer presented an award. She quipped “As you can see, I did receive my Academy booklet on how to dress like a serious actress”. The dress has been a fixture on Oscar worst-dressed lists ever since.
23. SHARON STONE, “ BASIC INSTANT” 1992
The tiny polo neck dress worn in the pivotal scene, is memorable for more than one reason… It was to symbolise the sex appeal of Stone’s murder suspect character.
24. KATE MOSS, THE SLIP DRESS , 1993
Calvin Klein ultimate dress of the moment, and still in vogue today.
25. PRINCESS DIANA “The REVENGE DRESS” 1994
The night Prince Charles admitted on TV to his affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles, Princess Diana stepped out in this sexy black mini dress by Christina Stambolian.
26. ELIZABETH HURLEY’S “THAT DRESS” 1994
Hurley was a struggling actress, best known as Hugh Grant’s girlfriend. She totally upstaged him at the premiere of the film “Four Weddings and a Funeral” wearing a borrowed black Versace dress held together by giant gold safety pins. By the next year, she had a contract with Estée Lauder.
27. GERI HALLIWELL, The UNION JACK MINI, 1997
Geri thought that the little black Gucci dress she had been given to wear for the Spice Girl’s performance at the Brit Awards was too boring. She asked her sister to stitch a Union Jack tea towel onto the front. An icon was born.
28. JENNIFER LOPEZ’S, THE JUNGLE DRESS, 2000
With a neckline that plunges below the navel, a slit that climbed to the crotch, it is said that the Versace chiffon palm print gown launched Google Images. Its CEO admitted as much, after J-Lo wore it at the Grammy Awards. She wore it again on a recent Versace show, and proved once again that it’s the gown and the girl that matter.
29. BJORK, The SWAN DRESS, 2001
Totally OTT, “The Swan Dress” is red carpet fashion at its most idiotic. It made headlines for weeks after the singer wore it to the 73rd Academy Awards. It became one of the most parodied frocks of all time.
LEFT KATE MIDDLETON’S MESH DRESS, 2002: RIGHT LADY GAGA’S MEAT DRESS, 2010.
30. KATE MIDDLETON’S MESH DRESS, 2002
As the story goes “She is hot” Prince William would have said of Kate Middleton wearing the knitted slip dress at St Andrew’s University charity show. The rest is truly history.
31. LADY GAGA’S MEAT DRESS, 2010
Franc Fernandez created a sensation when he sent Lady Gaga to the Met Gala in this shocking outfit. Animal rights activists and vegetarian groups were seeing red. Gaga has explained it was about sending a message: “If we don’t stand for what we believe, and if we don’t fight for our rights, pretty soon we’re going to have as much rights as the meat on our own bones”.
LEFT MEGHAN MARKLE’S WEDDING DRESS, 2018: RIGHT FRIDA KAHLO’S TEHUANA DRESS, 1907-1954.
32. MEGHAN MARKLE’S WEDDING DRESS, 2018
Her wedding gown created by Claire Waight Keller for Givenchy, wowed the world by its impressive simplicity.
And from then on it was downhill all the way…
33. FRIDA KAHLO’S TEHUANA DRESS, 1907-1954
The legendary Mexican painter has become a byword for artistic female autonomy. Her vivid dresses, corsets, and traditional Mexican garments are a forever muse on the like of Dolce & Gabbana, Jean Paul Gautier and many others.